Palliative care and cannabis

Published Jun 6, 2019 11:48 a.m. ET
Credit: bowdenimages

Cancer is the number one cause of death in Canada, followed by heart and stroke disease. As the population ages in Canada, so the numbers will increase. It is expected that by the year 2020, 40% more senior deaths will occur.

Palliative care

Care for those who are entering the final stages of life. The objective of this care is not to prolong life or to cure any diseases. The goal is to provide a comfortable, pain free atmosphere for the journey they are embarking on. The diagnosis of various cancers are increasing, so will the need for palliative care. Pain management is a concern, and cannabis may be the answer for relief.

Cannabis as an analgesic

Studies have looked at the role that CBD and THC could play in helping to control the chronic pain that cancer patients experience. By-passing the number of opioids with side-effects that cloud the mind and rob clarity from the patients remaining days. Cannabis is a viable option for pain control and providing a better quality of the remaining life the patient has.

Cannabis has been used in spiritual ceremonies for centuries. The patient with no life expectancy often questions spirituality at this time. Often the patient questions why? Why they are suffering. Cannabis use can produce euphoric feelings and relaxation to replace those feelings.

With the goal of palliative care being to improve the quality of life not extend it, the use of cannabis can be invaluable with effects like:

• improved appetite
• reduced vomiting and nausea
• help in relieving depressive thoughts
• alleviated pain

Methods of consumption are an important issue for the palliative care patient.

• Marijuana edibles can be delivered by food and drinks, or tinctures
• Suppositories inserted rectally
• Oils that can be swabbed in the mucus membranes in the mouth

Credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

The strains of medical marijuana used in assisting the provision of palliative care for the patient are also important. The needs of the patient must be paired with the best strain to accommodate making the patient as comfortable as possible in their ending days.

  1. Stephen Hawking Kush
    An incredible CBD dominant strain with up to 22% CBD. This Indica dominant strain is ideal for palliative patients needing extreme pain relief without a psychoactive high experience. Instead, they will have a relaxed, mellow, uplifted feeling. For the cancer patient, this strain may help with reducing nausea.

  2. Afghan Kush
    Afgan Kush provides relaxation; this is this strains forte. This almost 100% Indica, has a high THC level, 21% accompanied with 6% CBD. For the patient that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, depression and anxiety are often displayed, this strain will alleviate and may even allow the giggles to present themselves. The effects are slow but leave feelings of positivity and relaxation for a while.

  3. Green Crack
    This is a sativa dominant strain that will provide a cerebral high with its 21% THC content. A good cannabis strain for morning use to provide the patient with an energy boost. The feelings of happiness this strain can provide are just what the doctor ordered.

  4. Godfather OG
    Extremely powerful levels of 34% THC. This is an Indica dominant strain (60%). The patient can look to enjoy uplifting rays of sunshine days. The onset is quick with euphoric feelings that settle in to the Indica side of the plant, producing full relaxation. Anxious feelings when palliative care is advised can be helped when this strain is introduced. Insomnia has no place when this strain is used; instead, it is replaced with peaceful rest and deep sleep.

There is no proof that cannabis can cure all the aliments that can lead to palliative care. However, the path to death does not have to be painful, anxious, and depressive; the use of cannabis can and does improve the quality of the remaining life of the patient.

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